Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower III HD Video

This is my third and longest timelapse sequence yet from the Perseid Meteor Shower in August. I'll try to have sequences four and five done soon.

Make sure you have the HD display switched on (click on the HD symbol).

One of my first videos of this event was featured on Discover Magazine's blog.

Bear in mind that this is a timelapse video, so in playback as video everything is dramatically sped up. Each frame is a 15 to 30 second shot, but the video is assembled at a relatively slow frame rate of only 12 shots per second, so in video formats that play at 24 to 30 frames per second, the meteors show up for roughly two frames. In other words, each second of video displays ten to twenty minutes of shooting time. Apparently our eyes and minds are quick enough for us to perceive the meteors with some persistence even though they show up for only 1/12th of a second.

Anything that travels across the screen or survives in the video for more than a brief flash is a jet or satellite (and you can't see many of the meteors in most online copies of the video, unless you follow the links to Flickr and enable the highest HD playback available there). I'll try to find video hosting sites that enable blogging of copies that offer higher resolution playback, preferably full 1920 x 1080 HD. I'll also try to find some nice background music avalable under the Creative Commons CC-BY license (which does not seem to be a trivial search).

Meanwhile, if you'd like to explore timelapse photography yourself, download the free VirtualDub software which can convert a sequence of JPEG files into video, and check out the forum on for discussions on techniques. You'll need a tripod of course, and your sequence of still images will turn out best if you use a remote switch that has an intervalometer (timer) function.

Perseid Meteors Near Tioga Pass: HD Video Timelapse II

To avoid smoke from forest fires in California I traveled to this location at an elevation of 10,000 feet near Tioga Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

To increase the visibility of the meteors, click through to the video's Flickr page and make sure you have the HD display switched on (click on the HD symbol). Then look near the center of the right half of the video to see the most meteors.

This sequence was assembled from 517 21 megapixel photos. The rescaling down to 1280 x 720 for uploading to Flickr helps eliminate much of the noise. The photos on this night were exposed for 10 to 20 seconds at an ISO sensitivity of 3200.

This was taken on the peak night for the meteor showers, but the moon makes all but the brightest meteors difficult to see, especially at these lower resolutions.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Perseid Meteor Shower HD Video

Dozens of Perseid meteors fall in the course of over one hour, compressed into 5 seconds of HD video.

Go to my Flickr account and set the "HD" symbol under the display to see a higher resolution online.

Copyright © Jeff Sullivan 2009. All rights reserved. Do not copy or publish without permission.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What Camera Do You Use? What Camera Should I Buy?

I have these questions asked to me. A lot.

What paper does J.K. Rowling write on to create the Harry Potter series? What typewriter did Hunter S. Thompson use? What species of quill and what formulation of ink did John Muir and Henry David Thoreau use? If only I could have the same advantages that they had!

To make a long story short, in tests performed years ago neither professional photographers nor amateurs could distinguish between 5 megapixel and 8 megapixel shots when printed at 8" x 10" size. The industry's dirty little secret is that new cameras have are overkill for almost all photographers, and they have been for years. If you're not taking the pictures that you want, it's probably your expectations and your process that needs adjustment, not your equipment. In other words, the camera is not your most important consideration, nor is it your most important tool. You'll find that between your ears. At least I hope so. (And now that I've saved you $500-5000 in hardware upgrades, you send me my commission for that gain via Paypal.)

Now I'm going to contradict myself and give a few exceptions. First and most obviously, if you want to print a lot of photos in sizes of 40" or larger, a little more resolution than 5-8MP might help (although my 8MP files print well up to 20" x 30").

Next, I can vouch for the fact that high ISO shooting capability is one of the most important improvements that DSLRs have added in recent years, for handheld use in low light (portraits, weddings, concerts, fireworks, Chinese New Year Parade, etc.), night landscape shots (see my new night shot gallery and recent Milky Way shots on Flickr) and so on. Specifically, a friend asked me about the Canon Digital Rebel T1i/500D, and the reviews on sites such as Steve's Digicams verify that it delivers well on its promise for high ISO shooting.

If the Canon T1i had the 40D's 6.5 fps for sports (kids sports, skiing, etc.) and full 1080 resolution HD at a full 24 frames per second it would be perfect. Perhaps there will be a "60D" update to the 50D which adds these features. There's a show in September where new models are often introduced, and if we're lucky, the 50D replacement could be shipping by Fall.

In the meantime, the Canon T1i is a reasonable upgrade for indoor, sports and outdoor low light shooting.

Whatever you do, consider setting aside some budget for the Canon TC-80N3 Remote Timer Switch, which will allow you to do time lapse photography (including of the earth rotating under stars at night with high ISO shooting). There are a number of programs that will enable you to combine a series of downsized JPG still frames to make an HD movie. One nice benefit is that you can run the individial frames through a batch editing program like Adobe Lightroom so you can efficiently do a ton of edits and enhancements and have the video turn out with stunning quality.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bug on the Earth's Windshield

While hurling through space, the earth slams into a piece of debris from the Comet Swift-Tuttle (top right) during the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, as an orange moon rises through smoke from California's forest fires to shine on the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest at an elevation of 10,000 feet in the White Mountains.

One theory behind how life could spread among the stars is that amino acids could arrive on comets and survive the impact. It seems fitting to be among earth's oldest living things to witness comet debris falling to earth under the light of our neighboring stars.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Perseid Meteor Over the High Sierra

If you can find a patch of sky with minimal light pollution, the peak showers happening midnight to 5am tonight (Wed), and they'll continue at a declining rate for a few more days. The meteors appear to come from the constellation Perseus, which is near Casseopea (looks like a big W), and rises to the East/Northeast. This article has more info:

Strong Meteor Shower Expected Tonight

This shot of the Milky Way over the Sierras was taken earlier in the evening. Select the photo at the top of this article to go to its Flickr page and examine the EXIF shot details (using "More Details" link in the right column).

Monday, August 03, 2009

Smashmouth Live Concert in Reno

Steve Harwell, lead singer of Smashmouth... spots a big camera... and poses for it!

The band, known for songs such as "All Star" and for the Shrek movie soundtracks,played at The Legends at Sparks Marina in the Reno area in Nevada last weekend.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Breaking Sunrise Storm in the Owens Valley

The Summer "monsoon season" can be a very productive time to shoot in the Eastern Sierra, as small thunderstorms build and then break as warm, moist air crosses the mountains.